The fixtures for the 2021/22 Premier League season were released on Wednesday morning.
We’ll offer our initial reaction throughout the day, starting with this cursory look at the clubs with the ‘best’ schedules – on paper, at least – at the start of the campaign.
A six-Gameweek lookahead is our initial focus but we’ll cast our eyes further where necessary.
Manchester United and Liverpool stand out at first glance, with Leicester City and Everton also enjoying decent medium-term runs.
For those Fantasy managers not looking quite so far ahead, Aston Villa and West Ham United are perhaps the pick of the bunch in the opening month.
Eagle-eyed readers will have seen that our Season Ticker has also been swiftly updated.
Subscribers to Fantasy Football Scout can use this helpful tool to pick out the best and worst runs of matches for each club, sort by rotation pairings, use their own customised difficulty ratings and more.
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: LEE | sou | wol | NEW | whu | AVL
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: lei (GW8)
Manchester United avoid any of the traditional ‘big six’ in the first eight Gameweeks of the campaign, although whether we should be using that elite group as a strict barometer of difficulty is another question after underwhelming 2020/21 campaigns for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
Indeed, two of last season’s upstarts – Leeds United and West Ham United – await in the first five weeks.
But you’d be hard pushed to argue that the Red Devils’ opening run of games is not one of the more favourable, with three of last year’s bottom-half also-rans to come between Gameweeks 2-4.
Bruno Fernandes‘ ownership in Fantasy Premier League will likely be sizeable on the opening weekend, then, with Luke Shaw – who had the best minutes-per-chance-created average of any defender last season – also a potential target for the first two months at the least.
Gameweeks 8-14 are less appealing, with six of the teams who finished in the top eight in 2020/21 to come.
United don’t face a newly promoted club until November, with Watford the visitors in Gameweek 12.
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: nor | BUR | CHE | lee | CRY | bre
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: MCI (GW7)
While United’s opening-day fixture against Marcelo Bielsa’s impressive troops is a potential banana skin, Liverpool’s looks altogether more enticing.
Championship winners Norwich City are first up for the Reds, a club they have an excellent record against in recent years.
The Canaries may well be more streetwise on their return to the top flight but there’ll be few of us going without one or more of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold and/or Andrew Robertson in our initial FPL drafts.
Jurgen Klopp’s side beat Norwich 4-1 in Gameweek 1 of 2019/20 and have scored three or more goals in seven of their last nine meetings with the East Anglians.
A Burnley side that were surprisingly porous in the second half of last season (four clean sheets in 20 games) then follow, with perennial mid-table finishers Crystal Palace and newcomers Brentford also to come in the first half-dozen Gameweeks.
Indeed, Liverpool face all three of the newly promoted sides in the first eight Gameweeks, with a trip to Watford on the horizon.
It’s not all plain sailing: the Chelsea/Leeds double-header in Gameweeks 3 and 4 will be a test, with the visit of champions Manchester City in Gameweek 7 off-putting.
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: SOU | lee | bha | BUR | avl | NOR
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: mun (GW7)
Everton are top of our Season Ticker in the first six Gameweeks.
The currently managerless Toffees don’t face any of last season’s top eight until a trip to Manchester United in Gameweek 7 and there is plenty to be encouraged by even beyond that clash at Old Trafford.
Eight of their first ten opponents either finished ninth or below in the Premier League last season or came up from the Championship.
Few clubs have better opening runs on home turf, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and co facing Southampton, Burnley, Norwich City, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers in their first five matches on home soil.
Carlo Ancelotti’s erstwhile troops were in awful form on Merseyside in 2020/21 but the return of supporters to Goodison Park, the regime change and the fixture calendar will give them an excellent chance of remedying that.
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: WOL | whu | nor | MCI | bha | BUR
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: MUN (GW8)
The Champions League nearly men of the last two seasons will have an excellent chance of getting their 2021/22 campaign off to a flyer.
A seven-Gameweek run that includes four bottom-half clubs, a returning Norwich and a West Ham United side that were conceding for fun at the tail-end of last season will no doubt raise interest in Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy, although the former will be set for a considerable price rise and the latter’s goalscoring powers are perhaps on the wane.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION
- FIRST SIX FIXTURES: bur | WAT | EVE | bre | LEI | cry
- POSSIBLE TURNING POINT: MCI (GW9)
Brighton’s impressive defensive numbers in the second half of last season will no doubt see Robert Sanchez rise in price in 2021/22.
If he somehow does remain at £4.5m, then he’ll likely be the go-to custodian for many FPL managers in the opening two months and beyond.
All three promoted clubs face the Seagulls in the opening eight Gameweeks, with Leicester City the only top-seven side from 2020/21 that Albion meet in that time.
Aston Villa (wat | NEW | BRE) assets will be in demand in the first three Gameweeks, with their opening trio of matches arguably the best in the division.
They meet two sides coming up from the Championship and a Newcastle United outfit whose only clean sheets in the final 17 Gameweeks of 2020/21 came against the three relegated clubs.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (lei | TOT | MUN | wat | BRE | sou) have the opposite problem: their first three games aren’t great but a fixture swing in Gameweek 4 will see them rise up the Season Ticker.
It’ll also give Fantasy managers a chance to assess the mob from Molineux in their first set of games without Nuno Espirito Santo.
Like Villa, West Ham United (new | LEI | CRY | sou | MUN | lee) appeal in the short term; the Hammers will sit towards the top of our Season Ticker in the first four Gameweeks before they face a brace of tricky Uniteds.
Watford (AVL | bha | tot | WOL | nor | NEW) look to have the best run of the newly promoted sides and actually sit top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 1-7, although many Fantasy managers will perhaps adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach before the September international break.